study abroad in japan ~ preparations ch.1! – my foggy days

“Twenty years from now, you’ll be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.”

Mark Twain

Dear reader,

i’m going to japan!! I still don’t believe it too much but every day I have to accomplish an additional task that brings me a little closer to being there!

I’m writing this not only to document my memories and time there, but also to hopefully help someone else who may want to do the same 🙂

a small background

I am an undergraduate student at University College London (UCL) who very fortunately has the opportunity to study abroad as part of my degree – and how could I miss this chance?! so I applied with low expectations but here we are a year later with flights booked!

I will be going to Osaka University (OU) there for an entire year and in just over two weeks I will be there!

my app

for all curious: I first submitted my application to my home university via the study abroad department, and after being accepted by them, I sent an application to the host university .

it’s definitely a long process that requires time management skills and dedication, but i’m sure it won’t all be in vain

both of these apps consisted of similar question prompts to which I then had to provide a written answer to fit within the given word limits.

my degree at UCL is rather small so we were only given about five different university options to pick our top three (but this will vary from course to course)

for my home university, the application questions were:

  • What do you think are the benefits of studying abroad? (max 200 words)
  • outline your reasoning for applying to each of your chosen universities (max 300 words for each of the choices)
  • what do you think your particular first choice university has to offer? (max 250 words)
  • What do you think will be the most difficult aspect to adapt abroad? (max 200 words)
  • According to you, what are your main responsibilities as a UCL student abroad? (max 200 words)

I won’t go into the specifics of what I’ve written, but my advice would be to consider all aspects of your university choices: cultural differences, host university facilities, how you could improve a skill you are already learning while abroad, etc.

for example, I have linked some of my personal interests that I have researched to the work done at OU, also how I am part of a society at UCL that they also have at OU , and finally how I took a Japanese language learning module in my second year (big planning on my part) and how I could practice this better if I was surrounded by native speakers.

for the host university:

  • what courses would you be interested in taking
  • explain what connects you to Japan and study abroad, what you hope to achieve in your exchange studies (max 500 words)
  • describe your personal, academic and/or professional goals and how exchange studies at OU would benefit your future project (250-300 words)

for that again, all I can really recommend is to do a deep dive on the host unit; what courses they offer for international students (especially if you are going to a country that does not primarily use English!), what the university is known for i.e. research facilities, staff sports, teachers, etc., and again how you showed a previous passion for wanting to study there.

here I will give you free inspiration 😉

  1. although there are miscommunication issues […] I am excited to overcome these obstacles because it will mean […] independence and […] communication skills that will transcend language barriers
  2. I chose a Japanese language module for beginners […] because I determined that learning this would help me achieve a level of fluency […] so that I can use it both in a personal and professional setting […] from delicious food wrappers to shrine signs
  3. that would be a huge advantage […] promote my learning in an environment where I can practice and participate first-hand […] without the burden of finding instances repeatedly […] to deepen my knowledge beyond the classroom

^^these are some excerpts adapted from my application so that you can get an idea of ​​what was successfully accepted (but remember not to plagiarize ;))

as you can see, a lot of planning pays off in this case! Honestly, think of a country you’ve always wanted to visit/live and go from there! For me, I know I didn’t want to go to Europe (because it was too close to my home) and the US or Canada is also more accessible to me specifically for future jobs than somewhere like Japan . that’s why it was my number 1 choice! Because if not now, when?

after acceptance

Honestly, after getting confirmation, all you have to do is fill out forms, wait, and daydream.

I’ll admit that I don’t really remember the details of what I’ve accomplished over the past few months, so I apologize! but basically you have to get in touch with the host university and fill out forms for accommodation and your necessary certificates for a visa.

for me as i am now doing my final year (dissertation) a year later i had to email my department heads just to make sure they know i won’t be there until the next year – so I won’t be listed on modules here etc.

I also had to reconfirm my student finances with the government – make sure they know how to lower your tuition fees when you study abroad!! as the maintenance loan is also lower for me I had also looked at other methods to finance the year abroad.

e.g. savings, work, scholarships

^ This is quite crucial as the maintenance loan the government gives you may be lower, and you must provide financial evidence that you can support yourself for a year abroad in your subsequent applications.

I also submitted an application for a scholarship which I got!!! this definitely relieves some of the pressure – for this I googled specific scholarships for UCL/UK students in Japan until I found one – so I recommend checking them out and submitting the applications as soon as possible

for other forms, you should mainly wait to see what your specific university expects of you (make sure you meet the deadlines!)

get a visa

this has been the most tedious and nerve-wracking part of studying abroad so far, especially with the world just emerging from covid (see: japan just opened its borders now)

for my visa I needed:

  • my passport (make sure it doesn’t expire soon! if it’s in the next 6 months to a year they might not allow it)
  • a passport-size photo (be sure to check the guidelines for each country as they vary)
  • a completed visa application form (can usually be found on the embassy’s website – and the host university provides instructions on some of the details to be completed)
  • ERFS (this is a certificate that you must wait for to be emailed to you after completing the forms provided to you by the host university portal)
  • COE (a certificate of eligibility, similar to ERFS if I remember correctly, because you have to fill in forms for the university which they send to the government until they confirm it and send it back to you)
  • fast lane (this is to handle quarantine/entry procedures in Japan via an app)

even though I just received my COE a few days ago (electronically as covid makes the physical thing unlikely to be sent in time!). which means i just booked my visa appt. and after that, a visa still takes around five days to process, so be sure to take that into account when booking flights – although booking later may make it slightly more expensive, it’s better than having to cancel your first ticket and book/pay for an entirely different one if you couldn’t receive your visa in time

it is important to note that (from my experience within the pandemic) that ERFS and COE take a very long time to be received (3-5 weeks!!) and the university recommends not to book your flight as long as you don’t have a visa

right now, I’m really hoping this will be a quick process so I can catch my flight and arrive before orientation starts!

other things to consider

as i’m still sorting things out at home i thought i’d mention what i’m doing

I need to cancel my phone plan here (and other ongoing payments eg rent/subscriptions) and to prepare I bought a Japanese brand Mobal SIM card so that once I have landed in japan i will have at least some data to get me to accommodation/until i get settled

UCL also requires you to be enrolled in their travel insurance plan so I did

I also went to the bank to ask how my card will work there. as i have to pay conversion rates if i pay with my normal card i will most likely open a separate bank in japan too

tip: try to keep all receipts from the stay abroad as you can claim part of it / be reimbursed at the end of the period of exchange by the government (travel grant, etc.)

be sure to stock up on things you might struggle to acquire in the host country! and for me that means going to my optician appointment tomorrow to order wholesale contact lenses lol

Hope these are helpful if anyone ends up reading them! but for now good night ^-^

love, h

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